Sunday, December 27, 2009

Get out of jail free card?

ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a bit of a strange condition, there are those out there who simply do not believe it exists and those who claim to have it are simply "bad" lads/lasses and there are those who use it as an excuse for their behaviour, both are of course at the extremes of the situation.
Now my partner has a son who has been diagnosed with ADHD, fortunately quite mild, he hasn't shown any criminal intentions or even been in trouble with the law, he's a pretty good lad and he does know right from wrong and doesn't use his condition as an excuse for some of his occasional outbursts.

So, when I saw this in the Guardian, I looked at it with interest.
Police, courts and prisons will test all adult offenders for attention deficit disorders in a bid to reduce reoffending rates and cut aggressive behaviour in prisons.

The scheme is being set up by the Department of Health after research revealed a disproportionately high number of undiagnosed and untreated sufferers in the criminal justice system.

"We know that conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can contribute to people turning to crime," said health minister Phil Hope. "We are concerned that ADHD is not understood well enough in the criminal justice system so cases go unnoticed. In addition, when prisoners are released, they might be helped to find housing and employment but, if a health issue is not recognised, it can leave that person vulnerable to falling back into crime."

Research by the UK Adult ADHD Network revealed that almost 20% prisoners probably suffers from undiagnosed ADHD. Those with the disorder were at least one third more likely to reoffend than non-sufferers.

A second research paper produced at the meeting revealed that 10% of drug and alcohol addicts have ADHD. Both figures are much higher than the estimated prevalence of ADHD in the adult population of 2.5%.

Professor Philip Asherson , chair of the UK Adult ADHD Network, welcomed the initiative: "ADHD should be considered as a mental disorder that may impair criminal responsibility. They are vulnerable at every stage in their interface with the criminal justice system."
It may well be that ADHD is at the root of some prisoners re-offending, however that isn't any reason to excuse their behaviour, certainly medication can help to reduce the effects of the condition, however ADHD sufferers are perfectly capable of knowing right from wrong too it is emotional outbursts which often cause the problems, things that would mildly stress the average person can produce some fairly extreme anger and physical outbursts from someone with ADHD, but these can be controlled, but only of course if they know they have ADHD.
So, overall, yes by all means test the prison population for ADHD, perhaps it will help, however I do hope that ADHD will not become a catch all for avoiding prison sentencing. People who can't control themselves do not need an excuse to simply go out and cause more problems knowing that they have a get out of jail free card. If they can't control themselves even if on medication then the certainly should not be able to escape the consequences of their actions. ADHD should be recognised as a factor yes, but it should also not be an excuse and that's what I fear is coming from this decision, instead of building more prisons, they come up with more excuses not to put criminals behind bars.
The vast majority of ADHD sufferers aren't criminal in any way, don't cause problems and don't need their condition to become a crutch for those who can't control themselves.

5 annotations:

tris said...

I worked with some "soon to be released" prisoners a couple of years ago. Their common denominator (almost to a man) was an inability to read, write or count in any functional way.

It rendered them pretty well unemployable, which is a bad start. But it was a constant embarrassment and frustration for them too. It doesn’t of course cause you to be criminal. Of course there have always been people who couldn’t read and write; I have an elderly neighbour in her late 80s who is functionally illiterate, but once upon a time there were plenty of jobs which needed neither reading nor writing to be able to be done perfectly adequately.

ADHD doesn’t cause criminality, but I imagine it must be quite frustrating for the sufferer. It’s good that the courts are aware of it. Not as an excuse for the sufferers, but if people can be diagnosed and treated, maybe their lives will be a bit better, and maybe they won’t turn back to crime when they get out of prison. Drink and drugs and physical abuse are not excuses either, but dealing with them might reduce recidivism. It’s got to be worth a try.

JPT said...

Naughty bastard syndrome I call it.

tris said...

Actually, I heard it can be helped by feeding kids wholemeal bread instead of white, and cutting out as many "E numbers"/preservatives as possible.

It's a coka cola kind of illness...

Anonymous said...

Got LUATT syndrome myself. Can anyone help?


Story sounds like an excuse for the "self-hating white" Islington useless to excuse bad behaviour, give a name to it, make a living out of it, and excuse it, whilst making decent people suffer


BTW LUATT (Lock Up All Thieves and Thugs).

Anonymous said...

The ignorance of people like Tris or JPT is laughable.

As the author of this post said - adults with the disorder are not generally bad - so calling it "naught bastard syndrome" or using other, silly idiotic acronyms is foolish.